Gauteng's Blue Umbrella still folded

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The Gauteng provincial government and its infrastructure investment arm, Blue IQ, have yet to deliver on finance and economic MEC Paul Mashatile's R93 million pledge to roll-out cheap broadband in the province.

Mashatile made the announcement in his provincial budget vote in June. "Blue IQ will this year focus on, among others, the development of a viable business plan and economic model for the implementation of the Blue Umbrella project, in order to increase broadband capacity and connectivity in the Gauteng city region," Mashatile said at the time.

"Blue Umbrella is an intervention by the provincial government designed to integrate municipal and provincial government into a consolidated broadband strategy. It seeks to expand access to information and communication technologies to all the citizens of Gauteng," he added.

Blue Umbrella would also give impetus to the Gauteng government's drive "of creating access to education, through distance learning, social inclusion, job creation, increased productivity and consolidation of the knowledge-based economy".

However, three months later there is still no clear indication as to how this will be done or when. Mashatile meant to spend the R93 million in the financial year that ends 31 March and indicated that more money was to follow, including funding from the Gauteng Fund, which leverages private sector funding for strategic infrastructure.

Asked for comment, Blue IQ spokesman Jameel Chand said the process was "taking longer than we anticipated".

Blue IQ's project portfolio includes the Innovation Hub, the Automotive Industry Development Centre and an Automotive Supplier Park, in Pretoria, and Newtown, the Constitutional Hill precinct and Blue Catalyst in Johannesburg.

According to the Blue IQ Web site, Blue Catalyst has been operational since 2004 and aims to "promote the successful commercialisation of sustainable start-up technology and knowledge-based businesses in Gauteng".

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